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Books

The Machine Mandate

A space opera universe where artificial intelligences have achieved independence from humanity and formed the collective known as the Mandate. Most of the titles are standalones and have different protagonists (all of whom are lesbians).

Machine’s Last Testament (novel; takes place several centuries before the rest) 

And Shall Machines Surrender (novella)

Made of Knives (free prequel short story with the same characters from And Shall Machines Surrender)

Now Will Machines Hollow the Beast (novella)

Where Machines Run with Gold (free prequel short story with the same characters from Now Will Machines Hollow the Beast)

Then Will the Sun Rise Alabaster (short prequel story with the same characters from Now Will Machines Hollow the Beast)

Shall Machines Divide the Earth (short novel)

Together We Will Hunt Again (short prequel story that bridges Shall Machines Divide the Earth and Where Machines Redeem the Lost)

Where the Tiger Runs Alone (short prequel story that bridges Shall Machines Divide the Earth and Where Machines Redeem the Lost)

Where Machines Redeem the Lost (short novel)

Now Will Machines Devour the Stars (short novel)

Shall Machines Bite the Sun (short novel)

Her Pitiless Command

An epic fantasy lesbian retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s ‘The Snow Queen’, taking place in a world based on Southeast and South Asian cultures where the primary from of magic-technology is powered by the dead.

Winterglass (novella)

That Rough-Hewn Sun (short story; takes place years before Winterglass)

Mirrorstrike (novella)

Shattersteel (novella)

 

Featured

Short Fiction

2020

‘The City Still Dreams of Her Name’ in Beneath Ceaseless Skies. A city incarnated in human form pursues her instances across timelines, seeking to change the terrible destiny of the woman she loves.

‘We Will Become as Monsters’ in The Future Fire. A scavenger who lives near a deadly monster-labyrinth comes upon a dying general, who promises her wealth, concubines, and more power than she’s ever dreamed of.

2019

‘That August Song’ in Beneath Ceaseless Skies. For ages uncounted, humanity is defended from the monsters of sea by pilot-priests, who combat them within the living weapons known as vanquishers. Mecha fantasy.

‘Where Machines Run with Gold’ in The Future Fire. A soldier takes on a beheading dare and comes to meet her agreed-upon sentence in a small, strange city. Space opera Sir Gawain and the Green Knight retelling, takes place in the same universe as And Shall Machines Surrender.

‘Then Will the Sun Rise Alabaster’. On a remote planet, a convent harbors a deadly secret buried beneath quiet violence–a secret that the woman known only as the Alabaster Admiral will obtain at any cost. A story from the perspective of a young woman forced into religion by violent imperialism. Takes place after ‘Where Machines Run With Gold’ but before And Shall Machines Surrender.

‘Tiger, Tiger Bright’ in The Dark Magazine. A woman in contemporary Bangkok harbors a lifelong curse. A woman who calls herself a tiger offers help.

2018

‘The Five Secret Truths of Demonkind‘ in Big Echo. The earth is cursed; humans are doomed to become monsters. A demon breaches virtue’s fortress in search of God.

‘Red as Water, White as Ruin’ in Mythic Delirium. An expedition journeys to a land devastated by an unknown apocalypse, navigating an impossible curse and an impossible survivor. Secondary-world horror/dark fantasy.

‘The Owls of Juttshatan’. On a cold world of slow-moving terns, a child grows in the shadow of her mother the war hero. She is a creature of peace, raised in quiet among maps and dreams and owls. But she can be more, if she chooses. A space opera novelette of brutal bildungsroman. Prequel to ‘Autodidact’

Continue reading “Short Fiction”

What I’ve Been Watching/Reading

I’ve been obsessed with Summertime Render, a horror/suspense anime with the premise that a guy returns to his small-town island home and finds it infested with spooky doppelgangers pretending to be humans… and then he gets brutally murdered. Except each time he dies, the time loops and he gets another chance. But the loop is getting a little shorter each time, and soon he’ll loop to the moment of calamity and will have no more chance to ‘redo’.

The show suffers from truly unnecessary fanservice, but it’s not the most egregious around. There is, surprisingly, a lesbian (though sadly unrequited, but hey, one of the het guys is even more unrequited than she). The visuals, the music, and the acting (the seiyuu voice the characters with a Kansai accent!) are on-point, it’s a truly gorgeous show and slated to run for 25 episodes, covering the manga in its entirety. Meaning we’ll get the entire story! What is really special about Summertime is that its pacing is absolutely tremendous; each episode escalates from the previous episode, but not in a way that leaves either viewers or characters without room to breathe. Shinpei, the protagonist, is a fairly introspective person and is planning out his next moves and what he has to do to ‘win’ the next loop.

Continue reading “What I’ve Been Watching/Reading”

Book Review: THE PERFUME THIEF and THEY NEVER LEARN

The Lesbian Review has come through again: it’s how I discovered The Perfume Thief and They Never Learn, respectively historical fiction in Nazi-occupied Paris about a butch perfumer and a modern-day college thriller where a bisexual woman serial killer is the campus vigilante.

Of these two, The Perfume Thief became an immediate favorite. Here’s how it opens:

If you’re picturing me in some ladylike frock printed with posies, lace at the collar, don’t. I’m not done up that way. I began wearing trousers long before we ladies were allowed. You’ll find me in tweed and neckties, shirtsleeves and cuff links, fedoras and porkpies.

People sometimes say, She’s still somewhat handsome, and I think they mean it as a compliment.

“Are you whoever you are when you’re dressed,” a fellow asked me many, many years ago—decades, probably—a bourbon in one hand, his other hand toying with the button of my suspenders, “or are you whoever you are when you’re naked?”

The voice is strong, the prose is fantastic. Like much historical fiction, one of its pleasures is the depth of detail; you read to be immersed. It’s written in first person present tense too, so I’m doubly enamored. There are nods to historical queer life, and some of it is of the author’s invention (e.g. the perfume used by the lesbians of Paris), and it’s very well-researched. The narrative alternates between Clementine’s youth of crime and her love affair with a trans man and her ‘present day’ swindling a Nazi officer, and while the book ultimately has a bittersweet note tending toward hopeful, it’s also unflinching. The main flaw is that the pacing is pretty slow—it takes until about 25% through the book before it gets going—but it’s more than worth it.

They Never Learn is in most respects a weaker book: prose-wise, there’s not much to write home about. There’s the occasional fun line, like

But little do they know: killing a man is so much more satisfying than fucking a man could ever be.

The narrator is a bisexual woman, but she clearly gets little emotional satisfaction out of her relationships with men, viewing them as either useless or violent. There are shades of Killing Eve, except it doesn’t beat around the bush—Scarlett’s desire for another woman is immediately front and center. I consider it a popcorn book due to the borderline bricklayer plainness of language (couldn’t she go on about the graphic details of her murders a bit more? Surely we could have a few visceral metaphors and titillating violence?), but my preferences about prose are pretty particular. It’s a pretty unique book; not many titles, after all, are about a lesbian serial killer who gets a happy ending.

Recent updates: Valentine’s special, upcoming items

I can’t believe it’s been more than half a month since Now Will Machines Devour the Stars came out! This is the fifth novella in the Machine Mandate series, and the sixth book (counting Machine’s Last Testament) altogether. Expect one more novella later this year before I bring the series to a wrap (for now).

For Valentine’s, we released A Rose for Her Hound, part of my collaboration with Devi Lacroix. It’s a cute (?) little story about Viveca and Fahriye, taking place after The Gunrunner and Her Hound, about grief and the first steps toward getting (slowly) better.

What’s forthcoming, other than the sixth Machine Mandate novella? Well, mostly my projects with Devi: The Spy and Her Serpent in March, and after that a new urban fantasy series featuring, yes, the same characters… but reimagined as warlocks, sorceresses, demons, and weretigers. You know. Fun stuff. Look: ‘one character, multiple versions’ is good enough for Michael Moorcock and type-moon, so it’s good enough for us, honestly. We have every intention of making the new series able to standalone though, and the first book is already waaaay longer than the Gunrunner ones. Please look forward to it; I think our approach to urban fantasy is pretty fresh, and very fun, and of course very, very lesbian.

New books up for pre-order!

Some big news! Remember Her Pitiless Command, my fantasy trilogy that started in 2017? Yeah, uh, it’s been a while. But! We’re finally putting out the third and final book, Shattersteel. Look at the cover! I think this is honestly my favorite of the three, so striking and vivid, and so suited to the queen’s motifs (yes, she really has eyes like those). If you order direct from the publisher, you can get a 30% off.

This will be out this December. I’ll be releasing short stories set in this world toward the month. Please look forward to them! It is also available on Amazon and other retailers.

My collaboration with Devi Lacroix The Gunrunner and Her Hound is also up for pre-order, releasing this November, available on Amazon, Apple iBooks, Kobo, and B&N.

We’re doing a pre-order sale: the price is $3.99 now but will be bumped up after release. What will you get if you buy the book given that we’ll release all the main ‘episodes’ in the project for free eventually? You get the entire story in one place and well in advance of the serialization, plus three mini-stories exclusive to the ebook. You may even get a sneak peek of the next book in the series (that’s right, we’re doing more of this)! Pretty good deal, IMO. :)

Introducing ‘The Gunrunner and Her Hound’

Something completely different: I embarked on a collaboration project! For the first time ever. The project is a series of short stories with an overarching narrative, co-written by me and Devi Lacroix (her Patreon is here). I originally serialized it via my newsletter, but now it’s up in full on Devi’s website: ‘At Her Rightful Place’. We’re calling the entire series The Gunrunner and Her Hound.

Viveca Hua, arms-dealer

…is driven by three things: the certainty of steel, the need to win, and the need to possess.

Yves, bodyguard

…hunts for the place she belongs, and she might just have found it in the captivating Viveca, who offers her a new organization, an answer—and a collar.

Together they must survive assassins, rival gunrunners, and their own lethal attraction.

It’s a very neat project, and obviously a huge break from my usual genres: there’s no speculative elements to this one (other than a few things of shifted history that results in an alternate present), it’s all sexual tension, guns, and feelings. Later this month I’ll begin serializing the second short story, again through the newsletter. Working with Devi has been a blast: her prose is like an incision and her tackling of complex characterization incredible.

I can’t wait to see where we go with this project. We already have a decent arc in mind (and an idea of what this might look like as a book to compile everything in one place), so expect a more short stories between now and then!


In other news, I have a new Machine Mandate book out: Where Machines Redeem the Lost.

This is another break in tradition in that it doesn’t really stand alone and necessitates having read Shall Machines Divide the Earth albeit not any other book in the series. It takes up the secondary protagonist Recadat and continues her (very messy, very complicated) story in an AI-run prison facility. I billed this as a psychological thriller; it was a toss between this or psychological horror, but I felt it doesn’t really have enough horror elements.

Recadat Kongmanee has lost everything to the machines: the woman she loved, the hero’s prize she was promised, and her memories. All she has left is vengeance.

Within the Garden of Atonement, artificial intelligences offer healing and a return to innocence. Brought in as an inmate, Recadat must keep up a dangerous charade while she readies a weapon built to destroy AIsand prove that machines are not gods. But as she’s pulled into games of control and obsession, she draws ever closer to forgetting her purpose.

Yet she has not been sent alone, and a hidden ally watches from the shadows to ensure that she carries out her mission . . . or else that she never leaves the Garden alive.

It’s already gotten two fanfic specific to the book! I’m, as always, delighted: The Devil’s Staircase by Jemma_Topaz and The Many Wives of Recadat Kongmanee by Devi (both spoil the book to varying extent).

Machine Mandate Fanfiction Index

Canon characters

Shall Machines Sunder the River by Devi_Lacroix

One does not become a terrorist overnight. Or rather: one does, in their heart, but it takes time for their hands to callous with the knowledge.

I am better at it than any good and well-habituated person ought to be, to a degree that would appall Eurydice but leave Recadat unfazed. But then again, Recadat was a true believer—in justice, in truth, in doing the right thing—and Eurydice had a sardonic bent that fit nicely with the world-weariness that inflected my world view. Perhaps, in death as in life, I have continued to misunderstand them.

An alternate universe that takes place after Now Will Machines Hollow the Beast and which pre-empts the events of Shall Machines Divide the Earth, detailing what might have happened if Thannarat’s life had gone… very differently, and been more devastatingly tragic. Author patreon. Also, check out her original fiction; Nemesis is my favorite.

Don’t Look Back by lamianoble

As the Admiral’s projection faded, Krissana cleared her throat. “Did she sound mad to you?”
Orfea took a breath before responding. “She doesn’t need to sound mad. Anyone with the slightest awareness of our operations would know she’d be furious at these results.”

A short about Krissana and Orfea pre-And Shall Machines Surrender, after one of their missions under the Amaryllis.

Shall the Tiger Sunder the Earth by Lt_SciBrat

The assailants were smaller in number—technically, outnumbered, though that is an odd word to use for an invading force that sears through an astonished juggernaut with laser guided reckless abandon, routs them with bestial savagery directed by clockwork precision, even if it is technically correct. You would not say a hot knife is outnumbered by the butter.

Another AU: what would have happened if Recadat had won in Shall Machines Divide the Earth and used her wish to liberate Ayothaya? I really love the bleakness and speculation that went into what Recadat would become if her corruption by Chun Hyang’s Glaive reaches its logical conclusion, as well as the prose. She also wrote a werewolf Anoushka fanfic which is fantastic and oh so sexy, and a really sad far future fanfic about the perils of an AI loving a human.

If you’d like to show the author appreciation, she has a Ko-Fi.

The Exegesis of Wonsul by VyriaDurav

But my lady…Iris…had been broken by grief long ago and was prone to confusing the events of the present with those of the past. My awareness was new, strange, but I could still pull upon the records of my time asleep and knew that indulging her was necessary.

A story exploring the background (and burgeoning sense of gender) of the AI Wonsul’s Exegesis. I really adore it, it’s both sweet and sad and I can’t wait to see where the author takes the idea. Her original fiction can be found here.

No Worlds Left To Conquer by Zyzzyva1936

Numadesi didn’t need to be told twice – didn’t need to be told once, but she loved waiting for that snap in her wife’s voice. She set to Anoushka’s pants. Anoushka took her own shirt off. There was a point to foreplay, and teasing, and Numadesi being made to do everything precisely because she could be made to do everything, but Numadesi knew her wife too, and had been working her as hard as any human knew how, and by now Anoushka’s nipples were nearly as hard as the composite fiber ribcage beneath them. She wasn’t going to wait.

An AU, this time with the speculation of: what if Benzaiten in Autumn is a literal puppet master? This is NSFW. It is erotic mind control. It’s also really, really hot and good. What can I say, my tastes are wide-ranging. You can find the author’s original fiction here.

Columbian Bargaining by warisaracket

I played the part of the diplomat well. I had been conditioned, trained, since the age of four years old with the highest degree of operant conditioning the Columbian Guard mustered. I had only been allowed to know what sex was when I turned sixteen. I could control my every expression, my face a perfectly impassive mask. Not even the sight, down one corridor, of a woman with an enormous… organ… between her legs, possibly a prosthesis, possibly fleshly, not even the sight of her performing a sensual act with some other woman could persuade me to quirk an eyebrow unwillingly.

A story where Numadesi dips into very gentle mind control, satisfying her penchant for teaching virgins all about sensuality.

Original characters

And Shall Machines Chase the Sun by crownedserpent

Samara looks at her hands, dark and smooth with youth, but her nails glow a soft oceanic blue. She blinks and swears she can see the lightspeed path of electricity that now chases the circuitry of her veins. The ichor of the machines flows within her, and she feels life returning to her, smoldering and eternal. 

A story about a woman who’s just merged with an AI to become a freshly minted haruspex. The prose is absolutely gorgeous and I can’t wait to see where this goes, so if you think it sounds good too you can support the author (and read xer original fiction) here.

From Where Machines Count The Stars by Kalindlara

This time de Witte doesn’t laugh. She looks over at the grille that in ancient times would have separated her from a priest. Her expression is difficult to read—doubt? annoyance? pity?—and when she speaks, her voice is underlaid with firmness. “Xe. Not he or she or they or it. Xe. It’s a pronoun.”

“That doesn’t make sense. There are only two pronouns for people and one for corporate entities and institutions. Benzaiten must be one of those. Everyone must be one of those.” Indeed, the facet tasked with decoding the concept has returned only null values and corrupt data. It’s not fair. I need to understand this.

This story explores the dystopian Pax Americana (yes, it is exactly what it sounds like) and what the carceral hell in that would look like, as well as how the AI administering it might be suborned (and liberated) through a gender epiphany. Enjoyed it as much as I did? Here’s the author’s patreon

Below Decks on the Seven of Divide by Jemma_Topaz

Certainly there was plenty of competition, rows and rows of women, bodies carefully adjusted — for fighting, true, but there was a lot of overlap there. Aria shook her head.

“Numadesi looked at me once,” said Aria, “I mean, properly. But she must have second thoughts; maybe she could tell … doesn’t matter.”

A cute, smutty look at the ranks and files on the Armada of Amaryllis. The author’s interactive fiction can be found here.

What Machines Abandon to Faith by Geckonator

I weep for my people.  I rage for my world.  Across light years of distance and hours of time, every second through which I fail them is another measure of wrath and retribution recorded in my ledger.  But in the vastness of transference I have only darkness, can’t think clearly beyond the emotions I hold in the moment.  But there it comes, my body drawing closer, closer, closer…

Another one with original characters! Epic in scope, touching on various powerful polities as well as Mandate and Amaryllis interests. I love the voice and the cadence. Follow the author on twitter here.

Book Reviews: LOVE KILLS TWICE and LOVE BLEEDS DEEP by Rien Gray

The first book of the Fatal Fidelity series was my favorite of 2021 and the second book beats it without trying. These books are noir romances (or, in current subcategory parlance, suspense romances) and follow the emotional (and physical, and sexual) trajectories of a budding bisexual femme fatale and the assassin she hired to get rid of her abusive husband. This sounds glib—the books are more raw than this description makes it sound, and they don’t shy away from the emotional extremis of their characters’ circumstances. The domestic abuse Justine suffers at her husband’s hand is not depicted graphically but the emotional consequences, and her PTSD, are. Campbell, the non-binary assassin she hires, is a smooth killer in a suit but also has their own problems: combat trauma and the fear that one day they’ll become a monster. It’s a potent combination, providing a setup for the two of them to share not just sexual chemistry but exchange vulnerabilities.

Book one deals with the process of husband deletion, and the physical stakes are pretty low (since he’s an out-of-shape college professor and Campbell is, uh, a professional killer). The emotional stakes are strong though, and it’s pretty interesting to see Justine’s growing attraction to someone who’s very much from a different kind of life (she runs an art gallery and, up to this point, has led an ordinary life).

The second book ramps up everything else (including the sex! I feel the second book is much denser with it than the first, which does make perfect sense for the characters), pitting Campbell against an ex-military interrogator who’s menacing an American diplomat in France. There’s a much more thorough exploration of their past, and a nod to the horrors of the military-industrial complex that I found succinct and well-done.

Lunch might be some hastily assembled sandwiches, but with perfect ingredients, there’s no way to go wrong. “With the Legion, or with the mercenaries?”

He makes a vague gesture. “They are both symptoms of the same disease. Leave the poor and broken with nothing but a gun and they will pick it up for the first person that offers them a reason. We have to, so we can survive. France being kinder to me was coincidence.”

“But you wanted to stay?” I ask.

Ulysse’s smile fades. “I would be ashamed to return to South Africa. When I could have fought for her freedom, I ran. Those that shed their blood deserve better than breaking bread with a coward.”

It’s certainly not what I would have expected reading the first book, and this as well as other aspects made me rate Love Bleeds Deep a good bit higher than Love Kills Twice. The way Campbell’s PTSD symptoms are written can be difficult to read, in that it’s so well done and unflinching. At the sentence level, I like how smooth the prose it; it goes along at a good clip without sacrificing rhythm.

By the end of the second book, Justine has developed a lot, and it’s great to see how she and Campbell complement each other (and help each other stay whole, or at least not fall apart during moments of great stress). I’m really looking forward to the third book, Love Burns Bright.

Book Reviews: BLACK BUCK, AGAINST THE LOVELESS WORLD

I picked up Against the Loveless World, a book about a Palestinian refugee who narrates the story from her confinement in an Israeli prison. The publisher comps the book to Her Body and Other Stories which I find a little odd (it doesn’t have much in common in subject or in tone), but in any case the writing is as enchanting as it is hard-hitting. Nahr is being interviewed by a white journalist she describes only as ‘the Western woman’ (CN for a gang-rape mention):

The Western woman put her hand up. She glanced down at her notepad, covered her written questions with both hands, inhaled deeply, and blinked one of those exaggeratedly long blinks—as if she were breathing through her eyelids—then said, “I read somewhere that you were gang-raped the night Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait.”
I raised one eyebrow, which seemed to make her uneasy. In my peripheral view, Lena’s lips turned up almost imperceptibly.
The woman continued, “I can only imagine the horror of that night, and I’m sorry to bring it up.”
“What makes you think it’s okay to ask me these things?”

It’s good. It’s also a huge relief to read a book where no character exposits how elven aging works or how the conlang has five hundred words for ‘beige’—sometimes you get genre burnout, and the next explanation regarding the functions of a space empire or magic system becomes completely unbearable; you need to read something else to breathe. By no means is Against the Loveless World a cheerful read, but there’s a wryness to it: Nahr is not a cipher victim on which the reader may project their idea of what an Arab woman and refugee should be like. It’s odd to say, but this is such an easy book to read despite its subject matter, which I think separates it from outsider exploitation. Books about Arab women being miserable written by white people are an oppressively miserable affair to read, if they are at all readable.

Saying that this is a book about resilience seems trite, though it is about that. There are stretches that are very hard to read as Nahr endures successive rapes, and once those are past and she comes to live in Palestine, she has an unstable life disrupted constantly by raids, attacks, the arrests and brutalizing of her loved ones. Parts of the book are written with a surprisingly breezy tone, but there’s always an undercurrent of grimness and fear of what’s to come. It’s complex, demanding, and very angry.

The day that changed my life was like every other day before it, except that it changed my life. I suppose that makes it as important as a birthday, wedding, or bankruptcy, which is why I celebrate the twentieth of May every year like it’s my birthday. Why the hell not?

As with any other day, my alarm went off at 6:15 a.m. The buzzing interrupted an unremarkable dream that left me with morning wood. But instead of rubbing one out, I kissed my photo of my girlfriend, Soraya; straightened my leaning tower of books; said good morning to my posters of Scarface, The Godfather, and Denzel as Malcolm X, and stood in front of my mirror, taking stock of the person staring back at me.

I didn’t know it back then, but I was, and am, an attractive Black man. At six two, I’m taller than average, and my skin, comparable to the rich caramel of a Werther’s Original, thanks to my pops, is so smooth you wouldn’t believe it’s not butter. My teeth are status quo and powerful, also known as white and straight, and my hair is naturally wavy even though I usually keep it short with a tight fade. Goddamn! The kid looked good and he didn’t even know it. I took a deep breath, hopped in the shower, and began my morning routine.

Black Buck is such a ridiculously fun book even while it goes for the jugular of racism in start-up culture. It’s a bit Death of a Salesman, and it’s a bit… almost satirical self-help? One of the slickest books around while absolutely not flinching from the reality of white supremacy. Most of it is of course larger-than-life and exaggerated, the heartwarming beats can be a little corny (I love them though), and there is more voice than prose.

It’s a book that is hard to say anything bad about because it’s just so smooth, and it’s uplifting despite the way it ends (and despite the way Darren not getting everything he wants, and being subjected to a final injustice by force of white supremacy). It incorporates side-characters who are marginalized differently from the protagonist without ever making me feel this is done for the sake of ‘sounding’ progressive: the Black lesbian character is charming and vicious. I predict this is a book that’s going to be optioned in no time, it has that kind of buzz and sheen to it, and it’s something I’d genuinely love to see onscreen.


I’ve switched newsletter platform to Revue! You can subscribe and view previous issues here. Honestly I don’t think Revue is the best (the formatting UI is almost as much of a nightmare as WordPress block editor), but it’s still a format I prefer over blogging, so if you want to keep up with what I’m reading or watching or writing, that is the place to do it more than this blog.

On Asking for More Lesbian Options

I was reading reviews of a lesbian book that’s advertised as very dark and reception to that book seems polarized. It got me thinking about the permissible limits of lesbian media and how those are different from the limits of M/F or M/M media.

I don’t care to relitigate the ‘messy queer art’ discourse since I remain firm on my stance that the content is not the messiness, as it were, so I’ll be talking simply in terms of content in and of itself rather than speculations about authorial intent or experiences. The definition of dark varies widely; there’s some content touted as dark that I find very silly, and content touted as dark that I go ‘hm, not for me, bye’. But if you’re like me—like a lot of lesbians who gravitate toward the more ambivalent end of things—you’ll probably find discourse like ‘Akemi Homura is a psycho lesbian trope and that’s why Madoka is homophobic’ exhausting, especially when few take issue with Tokyo Ghoul having a literally predatory gay man character (he wants to cannibalize the protagonist) or Hisoka from Hunter x Hunter being the only gay man in the early story (possibly the only one period?) and he’s a pedophile.

This isn’t to say the characters from either HxH or TG are good (I think they are homophobic caricatures) but Homura is… well… just not as alarming. She doesn’t sexually assault anyone ala Shirai Kuroko from A Certain Scientific Railgun and it seems the bar for a lesbian character to be seen as a ‘psycho lesbian trope’ is astonishingly low. Many people would never think to complain about any of the gay male murderers and war criminals in Golden Kamuy, or how the homoeroticism of this show is inextricable from violence, but if it’s a lesbian—well, time to bring out the microscope! Is she ‘psychotic’? Is she too mean? Too violent? Too angry? Hmm!

Puella Magi Madoka Magica: 5 Reasons Why Homura Did Nothing Wrong (& 5 Ways  She's The Anime's Real Villain)

(For the record, I like Golden Kamuy but there are… issues, especially since the only trans character gets killed off. And to some extent I think the homoeroticism is playful on the author’s part—I don’t believe he’s a homophobe; the scenes of gay sexuality are depicted with enthusiasm and affection—but we’re looking at the reception of this versus the reception of lesbian characters.)

Looping back to books, which is more the point, the title I was looking at is on the very far end of dark. It’s not something I would enjoy—hence the ‘not for me, bye’ reaction—but it doesn’t bother me that it exists (it has prominently placed content warnings). The thought of someone who objects to Homura coming across it does amuse me—this work would drive them to apoplexy—and that exposes the limits of what lesbian media ‘gets’ to be. Because what Homura gets up to is utterly tame.

In much the same way, there are M/M books published by big five presses that are straight up about ‘sexy’ affairs between a slave owner and theirs slave. Remember when M/M small press Riptide did an in-universe ad for human trafficking? Sure, it’s not a big five/big four imprint, but…

But the uproar continued to grow, as authors and readers shared Riptide’s previous missteps: in 2016, it apologised after one of its novels featured a black character who was referred to as “Dark Chocolate Love Monkey”; earlier, it also apologised for a website for a series set in a world where slavery remained legal, which included fake ads for buying and recruiting slaves.

Unsurprisingly it also turned out the press was run by racists. Which is to say, I’m not asking for an alternate universe where it’s F/F books that get the big bucks for wildly racist slavery narratives (and racism should be criticized regardless of the author’s queerness). But it would be nice to have a middle ground between that and… this.

‘This’ meaning a media/consumption landscape where it feels like lesbian characters can only be two things: abject victims (of homophobic attacks, ‘corrective’ rape, and various associated traumas) or balls of sugary fluff who must be all things nice and who never has negative or angry thoughts. Obsessed with a girl? That’s a psycho lesbian, buddy. Kills a man? That’s a misandrist, it’s homophobic to write her like that. It’s a traumatized victim (who must not lash out; what if that makes her a man hater?!) or a personification of cotton candy, there is no third (let alone fourth or fifth) option.

Shall Machines Divide the Earth up for pre-order and other news

The pre-order for my next Machine Mandate book is up! Links: AmazonAmazon UKAmazon CABarnes and NobleiBooks, and Kobo. Paperback edition will be available at a later time.

Like most of the others, this is a novella, though a bit longer than Now Will Machines Hollow the Beast. It also has the advantage of being a true standalone, which is to say you genuinely don’t need to read any of the other Machine Mandate books or short stories (I’ll release a short story associated with this book at one point, but that’s more of a bonus character study than plot-relevant). This is the book I talked about writing for ages: Fate/zero but with lesbians, far-future AIs instead of heroic spirits, and a pinch of the Orpheus/Eurydice story.

On a graveyard star, machines run a deadly tournament and draw humans like moths to a flame with a priceless promise. Partner with an artificial intelligence and fight to the death. Win and receive your heart’s desire.

War veteran Thannarat has sought this hidden world to realize a single goal: bringing back the dead. To fulfill this wish, she joins the game alongside a seductive AI who pledges to give her victory. The tournament is full of lethal secrets—and so is the AI that professes to be her weapon. Yet to have what she needs, Thannarat will sacrifice everything. Her home world, the woman she once loved, and herself.

All she has to do is defy the game’s inescapable rule: that in the end, the only true victors are the machines.

I’m extremely pleased with the cover. The artist, as with all the others, is Rashed AlAkroka. Yes there will be… fairly obvious counterparts to certain heroic spirits. I won’t spoil. You’ll see.

Otherwise, I started a Substack. I’m finding it more intuitive to use than WordPress’ block editor (and more convenient than Medium), which seems to grow more user-hostile by the month, but also I feel people just don’t read blogs anymore. I’ll still keep this one updated, but a lot of my on-the-fly thoughts will show up on Substack instead (including what shows I’m watching, what books I’m reading, that kind of thing).